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MEN'S HOOPS BEGINS ROAD STRETCH ON SATURDAY EVENING AT PORTLAND

MEN'S HOOPS BEGINS ROAD STRETCH ON SATURDAY EVENING AT PORTLAND

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (6-2) begins a stretch that will see the team play five of its next six games on the road when the Hornets travel north to take on Portland on Saturday. Tip-off at the Chiles Center is set for 7:05 p.m.
• Saturday will serve as a rematch of last year's CIT first-round game in which Sacramento State defeated Portland at the Chiles Center by a 73-66 score. That marked the Hornets' first postseason win in 53 years.
• The Hornets' 6-2 record is the program's best after eight games during the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and best in 27 years. The 1988-89 squad also began the year 6-2.
• In addition, Sacramento State's six wins are tied for the program's most prior to the start of the conference season since the 2005-06 team ripped off nine victories.
• Should Sacramento State win on Saturday, the 7-2 record would be the best mark since the 1987-88 season. That 1987-88 squad eventually started 10-2, and is the last Hornet men's basketball squad to reach the NCAA Tournament (Div. II at the time).
• The Hornets have just three non-conference games remaining, including a road game at Stanford (Dec. 21) and home game vs. Pacific Union (Dec. 28). That game against Pacific Union is the Hornets' lone home contest between now and the middle of January.
• Sacramento State is 2-1 on the road this season, and in that lone loss (66-61 at UC Davis), the Hornets had two chances to take the lead during the game's final 20 seconds.
• Sacramento State and Portland played twice last season, with the Pilots defeating the Hornets at the Nest, 80-75, on Dec. 14. That was one of just two home losses suffered all season by the Hornets.
• Sacramento State got its revenge in the CIT matchup on March 18 when the Hornets led the final 24 minutes of the contest in posting the program's first postseason win since March 16, 1962.
• Sacramento State is 2-9 all-time against the Pilots, including a 1-6 record when the two teams play in Portland. Prior to last year's pair of games, Sacramento State and Portland had not played each other since the 2000-01 season.
• In those two matchups with Portland last year, returners Eric Stuteville averaged 11.0 points, Nick Hornsby 7.5 points, Cody Demps 6.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
• The Hornets' victory last season snapped a six-game losing streak in Portland that saw Sacramento State lose each of those games by at least 15 points.

RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• A free video stream will be provided for Saturday's game at www.TheW.tv.
• Free HD video streams will be provided for every home game this season via www.WatchBigSky.com. In addition, all road games played in a Big Sky venue will be streamed free on www.WatchBigSky.com.
• Like every game this year, Saturday's game will be broadcast live on KTKZ 1380 AM The Answer with 19th-year play-by-play man Steve McElroy calling all the action.
• Fans outside the Sacramento area can listen to every game via www.hornetsports.com.

HORNETS' LAST GAME

• Sacramento State scored on seven of its final 11 possessions spanning the last 6:02 of the game to beat Incarnate Word, 73-70, on Monday evening at the Nest.
• A pair of sophomores, Justin Strings (career-high 23) and Marcus Graves (20) combined for 43 of the Hornets' 73 points. In fact, it was Graves and Strings who combined to score Sacramento State's final 19 points of the game spanning the last 7:19.
• Incarnate Word is a Div. I program from San Antonio that qualified for the CIT last season. The Cardinals, in their third year at Div. I, are members of the Southland Conference.
• The Hornets, who led by as many as 17 points in the first half and never trailed the entire way, saw Incarnate Word make a furious comeback and eventually tie the game at 56-56 with 6:20 remaining.
• However, it was Strings or Graves who combined to score on each of Sacramento State's next five possessions. By the time Strings connected at the 3:27 mark, the Hornets had a 69-64 lead.
• The Hornets eventually had a 73-67 lead with 28 seconds left. Sacramento State would miss the front end of a pair of one-and-one free throw opportunities in the final 17 seconds, and Incarnate Word's Shawn Johnson made a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to provide the final score.

OFFENSE AVERAGING NEARLY 80 POINTS PER GAME

• Sacramento State's offense is averaging 78.2 points per game, the fourth best mark in the 12-team Big Sky Conference.
• The Hornets have scored better than 70 points in all but two games, including the 66-63 win at Arizona State, and 66-61 road loss at UC Davis.
• During the Div. I era (1991-pres.), the Hornets have never averaged more than 75.8 points per game in any season, and haven't averaged more than 71.0 points since 2006-07.
• All five starters are averaging at least seven points per game, including Marcus Graves (15.4 ppg), Cody Demps (14.1 ppg) and Justin Strings (13.8 ppg).

HORNETS WIN DESPITE THREE LARGE 2ND HALF DEFICITS

• Of Sacramento State's six wins this season, three have come despite the Hornets trailing by eight points or more in the second half.
• That includes a 10-point deficit at Arizona State (11:37 to play), nine points at Seattle (15:16 to play), and eight points vs. UC Davis (16:41 to play).

MOVING THE BALL

• Sacramento State is currently first in the Big Sky in assists (17.9 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.5), as well as second in turnover margin (+2.0).
• The Hornets are now 24th in the nation in assists per game and have 143 assists on 229 made buckets (assists on 62 percent of converted field goals).
• Amazingly, the Hornets' back court of Cody Demps (5.9 apg) and Marcus Graves (5.0 apg) are first and second, respectively, in the Big Sky in assists per game.
• Sacramento State has committed 12 turnovers or less in all but two games, and both  Demps (3rd; +2.4) and Graves (4th; +2.0) rank among the Big Sky's top four in A/TO ratio.

DEFENSIVELY SPEAKING

• Sacramento State is third in the Big Sky in both defensive field goal percentage (.418) and defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.309).
• The Hornets have scored over 10 points off turnovers in every game thus far, and average 17.8 points off opponent miscues. That includes a season-high 26 points against Pacific.
• The Hornets rank first in the Big Sky and 55th in the nation with 5.1 blocks per game.
• Sacramento State is 6-1 when limiting the opposition to under 80 points.

CONTINUITY IN THE STARTING LINEUP

• Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz has used the same starting lineup in all eight games, consisting of guards Cody Demps, Marcus Graves and Dreon Barlett, forward Nick Hornsby and center Eric Stuteville.
• Three of those players have long starting streaks. Demps has started 71 straight games dating back to his sophomore season, Stuteville has started 39 of the last 41 games, and Hornsby has started 37 of the last 40 games.

PRODUCTION FROM THE BENCH

• Sacramento State has gotten nice production from the bench this season, as reserves are averaging 25.9 points per game.
• Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz has primarily used a rotation of 10 players this season after using an eight-man rotation during the Hornets' 21-win season a year ago.
• Leading the way has been sixth-man Justin Strings who is third on the team averaging 13.8 points on .627 shooting (42-67) from the field.
• Sacramento State has received at least 28 points from its bench in five of the eight games, including 35 points at Seattle, 30 at UC Davis and 28 vs. South Dakota and Incarnate Word.

COMING OFF A RECORD-BREAKING SEASON

• Sacramento State finished the 2014-15 season with a 21-12 overall record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference. Prior to last season, the Hornets had never finished with an overall record above .500 since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991-92.
• The 21 victories were tied for the second most in program history (1948-pres.), and the 13 conference wins were the most in school history (regardless of conference).
• The Hornets advanced to the postseason for the first time in the Div. I era, and won at Portland in the first round of the CIT, the program's first postseason win in 53 years.

IMPROVEMENT EVERY YEAR UNDER COACH KATZ

• Sacramento State has improved its conference record every year since head coach Brian Katz took over the program in 2008-09, including last year's 13-5 mark.
• Last year, Coach Katz was named as CollegeInsider.com's National Mid-Major Coach of the Year, District 6 Coach of the Year and Big Sky Conference co-Coach of the Year.
• A graduate of Sacramento State, Coach Katz recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at the helm of the program through at least the 2019-20 season.

STRINGS SHOOTING LIGHTS OUT

• Sophomore forward Justin Strings, who averaged 4.2 minutes per game last season, earned his first career Big Sky Player of the Week award on Tuesday.
• Currently the team's sixth man, Strings is third on the team with 13.8 points per game while also pulling 4.6 boards per contest.
• He is shooting a very proficient .627 (42-of-67) from the field and .483 (14-of-29) from the 3-point line, marks that rank third and sixth, respectively, in the Big Sky. He did not even attempt a 3-pointer in 25 games last season.
• Strings creates matchup problems as the 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward can score underneath and on the perimeter. He has scored at least 13 points in all but two games, including a career-best 23 points in Monday's win over Incarnate Word.

GOING FROM AVERAGING 1.2 PPG TO THE TEAM'S LEADING SCORER

• Like Justin Strings, sophomore Marcus Graves is making the most of increased playing time this year. Graves has already received National Mid-Major Player of the Week and Big Sky Player of the Week honors this season.
• He is averaging 15.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.5 steals and has a +2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in a team-high 34.8 minutes per game. This comes after Graves averaged just 1.2 points, 0.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 5.3 minutes in 13 games last year as a freshman.
• Graves, who has scored 13 points or better in all but two games, had eight steals in the win over Pacific, tying for the second-best single-game mark in school history.
• Graves already has three games with at least 20 points, including a career-high 24 at Seattle, the most points scored by a Hornet this season.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE SECOND HALF

• Sacramento State is outscoring the opposition by an average of 4.9 points in the second half this season, and the team is 5-1 when leading or tied at halftime.
• Sacramento State is 3-0 when leading with 10 minutes to play, 3-0 when leading with five minutes to play and 2-0 when tied at the five-minute mark. In addition, the Hornets are 2-1 when trailing with 10 minutes left, and 2-2 when trailing with five minutes remaining.

DEMPS STUFFING THE STAT SHEET

• Fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps has produced an impressive stat line of 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting .436 (41-94) from the field and .381 (8-21) from 3-point line.
• The best defender on the team, Demps has played four positions during his career with the Hornets, and has received the majority of this year's minutes at point guard.
• The quiet leader has started 71 straight games dating back to his sophomore season.
• Demps leads the Big Sky and is 33rd in the nation with the 5.9 assists per game while his +2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks third in the Big Sky.
• He has scored at least 14 points six times, and has two points in the other two games.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby, who leads the team with a +50 plus/minus ratio, has pulled at least seven rebounds in five straight, and seven of the eight games. His average of 8.0 boards per game ranks fourth in the Big Sky.
• Center Eric Stuteville has at least three blocked shots in three games this year and is now third in the Big Sky with an average of 1.8 blocks per game.
• Freshman Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, has 17 points over the last two games on a 7-of-10 shooting from the field.
• Fourth-year senior Dreon Barlett is shooting .429 (57-133) for his career from the 3-point line, the fourth best mark in program history among players with 50 makes.